In the new digital landscape, Facebook friends, Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers are almost as good as gold. Having many fans online can mean money and influence. Twitter is even now being used as a political polling index of sorts. So it's not surprising that people would look for shortcuts – they are – and that's how an underground Twitterverse was born.
A quick eBay search shows that anyone with $59.99 can buy 75,000 Twitter followers that will be added to their account within 48 hours. The practice of buying fake followers can be fairly easily sussed out by using a Twitter analytics program like TweetStats or Twitter Counter.
Research statistics clearinghouse Barricuda Labs recently released the following infographic outlining the seedy underbelly of black market Twitter follower sales, including some numbers on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
It's not clear who was responsible for increasing Romney's Twitter followers by 17 percent in one day in late July, but it has many in the tech community scratching their heads.
Devin Coldewey of NBCNews.com reports that it's not uncommon for celebrity Twitter accounts to have a large number of "bot" followers. Romney's campaign denied having any role in the sudden surge of Twitter followers .
Click on the image below to go to browse a full-size version of the Barricuda Labs infographic.